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Continued poor air quality demonstrates lack of Ministerial leadership

Published 05 November 2015 by Colin Howden

Transform Scotland have today slammed the UK Government’s air quality plans as reliant on “technical fixes and bland statements about cycling” and the “serious absence of leadership” by Scottish and UK Ministers.

In our response to the Scottish Government ‘Consultation on Air Quality Plans to Meet EU Limit Values for Nitrogen Dioxide (No2) in Scotland’, John Webster said:

“We fear that the UK approach is a way of pushing compliance way into the future, whereas many of our Continental neighbours have taken action as long as ten years ago. Why does the UK not introduce Low Emission Zones now, as was done in many cities in Germany almost a decade ago, and restrict access for polluting vehicles to areas of poor air quality? We consider the failure to do so to represent a serious absence of leadership on this important public health issue by both Scottish and UK Ministers.”

John Webster continued:

“We are also rather sceptical of the ‘Pollution Climate Mapping (PCM)’ modelling as regards its ability to predict air quality over the next decade or more. If the output from the PCM model is to be believed, all failing zones within Scotland will be compliant by 2020 based on measures to be taken at a national and local level. However, it makes use of information on vehicle emissions complied with when sold new. Given what we now know in the light of the VW affair about the use of software to generate emission data far removed from real-life performance, it is likely that the modelling will be shown to be over-optimistic.”

“What is absent from national and local proposals are any with a realistic chance of achieving significant reductions in traffic volumes and corresponding improvements in air quality. Missing from the national proposals, as far as we can see, is mention of demand management as a way of reducing traffic volumes into cities and as a possible way of generating income for significant transport infrastructure enhancements.”

Transform Scotland therefore proposes the following actions as a way of improving air quality and improving general quality of life:

• A shift in public expenditure from road-building to public transport and active travel.
• The development of efficient public transport systems such as low-emission bus, light rail or metro, which are proven to achieve modal shift in travel habits.
• The widespread introduction of demand management in major cities
• The mandatory introduction of segregated cycle lanes within city-centre and arterial roads to encourage commuter and school cycling in a safe environment.

Most importantly, a change in transport funding priorities to allow such developments on the ground to take place.

The consultation remains open until 9 November.